|Pro surfer speaks of fun, volunteerism
Thiermann addresses packed house at SSU
Pro surfer and advocate for change Kyle Thiermann paid a visit to the Sonoma State University campus on Monday.
Thiermann shared the story of how he went from a teenage surfer in Santa Cruz to the creator and host of the hit YouTube series, “Surfing for Change,” where he shines a light on global issues for YouTube viewers to discover. The idea was most people will not take the time or spend money to view a documentary on socially relevant issues, but will not hesitate to watch Thiermann’s short films on the Web.
The SSU cooperage was filled with students interested in hearing the 22-year-old speak about his journey from the Santa Cruz shores to beaches all over the world. This event was one of the first for Earth Week, and many expected to hear about environmental issues Thiermann has tackled via video.
Money for destruction
According to surfingforchange.com, “his first YouTube movie in the series, ‘Claim Your Change,’ details how money kept in multinational banks is used to finance destructive projects all over the world. One such project, a proposed coal-fired power plant in Constitucion, Chile, home of a world-class surf spot and fishing village, is the subject of the movie.”
Thiermann started his presentation by describing that as a child, he had the opportunity to travel a lot with his family and showed a slide of him and his father on a beach in Peru when he was 14. As amazing as the waves were to him, he also was able to witness something else in Peru – poverty. When he landed in Peru, he took a taxi from the airport, and there knocking on the cab window was a little girl who was begging for money. Thiermann showed a picture he took of this girl on the screen behind him.
“It was a weird experience for me to see how much it was by complete chance that she was in her position and I was in mine,” Thiermann said. “And it was through experiences like this that helped me develop the world view that if I can help, then I should.”
Influenced by outside elements
It was from his experiences outside of the United States Thiermann decided he was going to do something to help, although at first he was not sure how to proceed. He had observed other activists in the Santa Cruz area and noted they didn’t seem to enjoy what they were doing.
“Most activists didn’t look like they were having very much fun…and I love having fun,” Thiermann said as he changed the slide to a picture of him going down a water slide resulting in an audience uproar of laughter.
Thiermann continued to state whatever he did to help, he wanted to have fun doing it, and because he is a surfer, he felt it was only natural to reach out to surfers with his work. Thiermann said, “I was 17 at the time, and I set this big goal for myself that I was going to combine my passion for surfing and my love of traveling with helping in some way.”
He did significant research and found the subject of his first movie about the proposed coal-fired power plant.
Explaining how the power plant would work, Thiermann described the ripple effect the village would face if or when the plant is built.
The proposed plant would take in ocean water to cool the machinery and then release the water back into the ocean 10 to 20 degrees warmer, which kills the marine life in that area.
Since Constitucion is a fishing village, the loss of this sea life affects their economy as well. The plant could also compromise the health of the people there.
“Coal is the largest contributor to toxic mercury contamination in the world; it causes asthma and a lot of the major lung problems that we see today,” Thiermann said.
Another issue covered in his presentation had to do with Bank of America and other similar banks. Bank of America funds projects like the coal-fired power plants because corporations need loans to make those kinds of projects happen. The money they are able to loan is available because people continue to put their money into banks like Bank of America, Thiermann noted.
Shop and bank locally
On Thiermann’s Web site, there are three easy steps listed on the side – bank locally, shop locally and support responsible companies. By doing these three things, Thiermann emphasized anyone can make a big difference with very little effort.
Thiermann continued by showing another one of his films about recycling and where plastic really ends up, which was filmed primarily in Hawaii on the north shore of Oahu, where plastic waste ends up.
Hawaii is described as a filter for this waste and really shows a different side to the island paradise. The film also featured musician Jack Johnson talking about sustainable practices, which tied it back to the Earth Week theme.
Join Us Making Progress (JUMP) Eco-Projects coordinator, Diedre Tubb went to the podium to inform the audience of the plastic bag campaign going on during the week where those who bring 10 plastic bags to the JUMP office will receive one free reusable tote bag. To learn more about Thiermann or to watch his films, go to surfingforchange.com.